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It’s election time again and the party manifestos are already starting to emerge. This led us to wonder what impact each of the main parties’ pre-election promises could have on our industry if they’re elected, specifically in terms of broadband coverage, eradicating the not-spots and the ongoing surveillance vs privacy debate. We are politically neutral and are simply describing the information provided by each of the major parties so far. It is for you to judge which you think is the best.

In alphabetical order, here’s the full detail:

Conservatives

The Conservative manifesto is probably the most obvious as they clearly plan to continue with the objectives they have already started. They will continue with their existing plans to deliver superfast broadband to 95% of the UK by 2017 using the BDUK system and support providers’ deployment of ‘ultrafast’ broadband as they stated in the recent Budget.

David Cameron stated: “We will deliver the next generation of UK infrastructure: more roads and broadband, High Speed 2 and rail improvements across the nation.

You asked that while we got Britain back living within her means, we should invest in the things that really matter… science, superfast broadband, our railways and roads. 40,000 homes and business connected to superfast broadband every week.”

They will also explore the options of near universal superfast broadband coverage across the UK by 2018, offer Connection Vouchers (worth up to £3,000) to 50 cities and surrounding areas in order to help businesses install superfast broadband and review the potential for adjusting the current Universal Service Obligation to include a 5Mbps broadband speed requirement.

With regards to surveillance, they have reportedly pledged to increase the surveillance powers of the UK’s intelligence agencies, stating:

“We will keep up to date the ability of the Police and security services to access communications data – the ‘who, where, when and how’ of a communication, but not its content. Our new communications data legislation will strengthen our ability to disrupt terrorist plots, criminal networks and organised child grooming gangs, even as technology develops. We will maintain the ability of the authorities to intercept the content of suspects’ communications, while continuing to strengthen oversight of the use of these powers.”

In addition, The Conservatives have promised to protect intellectual property by continuing to require ISPs to block sites with illegal content, ensure search engines do not provide links to the worst offenders and build upon current voluntary anti-piracy projects. They also mentioned requiring age verification on all sites with pornographic material.

Green Party

The Green Party has taken a slightly different approach on broadband coverage stating “The Green Party would oblige BT and other Public Telecommunications Operators to provide affordable high-speed broadband-capable infrastructure to every household and small business.”

Unfortunately, we have no further details as to how they would ‘oblige’ BT et al to do this or what ‘high speed” broadband would actually be.

The party also promises to oppose RIPA and end all mass surveillance and states they would support a new bill to safeguard privacy as reported by Techweekeurope.co.uk who writes; “The Greens say they would limit surveillance and data retention in full and would assist the EU’s proposals to strengthen data protection laws against the threat of US companies. Citizens’ personal data would not be commercialised in any way, while the censorship and takedown of content would only be permissible in unspecified “exceptional circumstances.”

Labour

With regards to broadband availability, Labour has vowed to “ensure that all parts of the country benefit from affordable, high speed broadband by the end of the Parliament” and they have promised to “work with the regulator to ensure the right framework is in place to maximise the potential of private sector investment in broadband networks. High speed, reliable broadband access is increasingly essential to full participation in the digital economy, and a world class digital network for the whole of the UK will play a central role in creating jobs and boosting economic growth.”

With regards to the ongoing security vs privacy debate they have stated “We will need to update our investigative laws to keep up with changing technology, strengthening both the powers available, and the safeguards that protect people’s privacy. We will strengthen the oversight of our intelligence agencies to make sure the public can continue to have confidence in the vital work that they do to keep us safe.”

Liberal Democrats

Similarly, the Lib Dems comments regarding broadband coverage are to support their existing coalition policies.

They said: “We will complete the rollout of high-speed broadband, to reach almost every household (99.9%) in the UK as well as small businesses in both rural and urban areas.”

However, they have been more vocal regarding the issue of security and surveillance, where they plan to set stricter limits. The Liberal Democrats controversially blocked the Tory’s Communications Data Bill last year and forced the addition of a sunset clause in the more recent DRIPA. They reportedly plan to introduce a new bill, the Digital Bill of Rights, which they argue would “ensure that personal data would be subject to the control of the individual to whom it refers.” They also propose to safeguard net neutrality and the ‘freedom of the Internet’.

The draft Bill states:

  • The “Government should not require CSPs to retain any bulk data for law enforcement or intelligence purposes unless it can demonstrate that it is strictly necessary and proportionate to do so in order to protect the public from crime.”
  • The “Government should not mandate the filtering of lawful online content.” – “Customers should be given the choice of whether they want to have certain material (e.g. pornography) blocked when they connect to the internet, but service providers should not present their users with the default assumption that they want legal content to be blocked.”
  • The principle of net neutrality should be defined and enshrined in a Code of Practice with a statutory underpinning.
  • “Everyone should be able to access, edit or remove any online content which they themselves have created”.

UKIP

UKIP have not stated anything about their plans for broadband coverage and its importance to the economy or anything about its plans for surveillance laws. In fact, they barely even mention the Internet within their manifesto.

Additional parties

It is reported that the SNP support a USO for broadband and telecoms to deliver equal access across the UK, however their official manifesto has not yet been released.

We will provide further updates as and when they are made available.

Here’s a summary of the key points per party:

election15

Conclusions

Unfortunately, all of the parties have been a little vague on the details. We know the most about the Conservatives (and the broadband coverage plans of the Lib Dems) but that is purely because they are the existing Government and therefore plan to continue with their already established and well documented plans and targets. We hope the parties will quantify the details of their plans more in the run up to the election.

On a positive note, it’s great to see broadband access and connectivity being recognised as an essential service which can help to drive our economy forwards (by 4 out of 5 of the main parties anyway). This is brilliant progress for the industry. It’s also positive to see the issue of surveillance vs privacy playing such a key part in the pre-election debate.

Have your say!

What do you think about the manifestos published so far and the potential impact they may have on the industry? Do you think we will see any fundamental changes implemented? Do you think the surveillance powers of our security agencies will change post-election? Let us know your thoughts by leaving us a comment below.

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